Ethical Elegance: Stitching Together Passions

Apr 23

I’m thrilled to share this guest post from Chelsea Nelson. Chelsea has been my student in several writing classes, and let me tell you–this woman is a dynamo. She’s passionate and has an impressive work ethic. I hope you enjoy reading about her fundraising project…and that you’ll hop over to support her!

220Everyone has that one animal that changes their life when they are a kid. Mine is a dog named Jasmine. We adopted her when I was 10 years old and had her for 11 years until this past November when we had to put her down due to old age. She was more than a dog to me; she was my best friend and the reason I am so passionate for dogs today.

Sterling Shelter gave me my best friend 11 years ago, and I can never truly repay them for that, but what I can do is help them stay running and succeeding as a no-kill shelter.

I created a campaign called Scarves for Paws in which I sell handcrafted scarves for 10 dollars and give those proceeds to Sterling Shelter. As a no-kill shelter, they are always in need of volunteers, supplies, and money donations to stay open. Because they are located at least 45 minutes from my house, volunteering seems impossible, so instead I figured what better way to say thank you for giving me my best friend then to raise money for them.

Knitting has always been a hobby of mine. It relaxes me and calms me when I am stressed. Knitting scarves is my favorite thing to do. One day I was sitting in my room brainstorming for something I could do in my spare time that would benefit the animal shelter. I have had the name Scarves for Paws in my head for a while but bringing the idea to life was a whole other dream. With two weeks of organizing and encouragement from other people, I began to run the Scarves for Paws Campaign. This whole process has showed me that anything is possible no matter your interests and hobbies. I have a long way to go until I am completely satisfied with the campaign but am proud of my progress in the little time I have been up and running.

So far I have gone once to the shelter and was able to give them a box of newspapers and $230 in cash that will benefit all the animals in the shelter. After I dropped the money off, the owners gave me a hug and said they really appreciated my taking time to make the scarves and giving them the proceeds. It was really touching. I never imagined raising $230 just three months of sales. To reach more people, I opened an online store. Although at first the campaign was only a thought I had discussed with my roommate, I am proud to say that I have raised that much money.
I hope in the future I can raise a lot more money and bring it to the shelter to help them out.

By combining my two passions of knitting scarves and my love of dogs, I was able to do something more to benefit someone other than myself, and I am truly proud to say I helped sheltered animals get adopted and have a comfortable stay at Sterling Shelter.

008Chelsea Nelson is originally from Upton,  MA and is about to graduate from  Westfield State University, where she’s been studying English with a writing concentration.  She has had dogs her entire life, currently Kodiak, an 8-year-old Labrador retriever, and Bear, a 2-year-old chow lab mix. She has also worked at a kennel for four years and still works their on holidays and breaks from school. Read her dog blog,follow her on Twitter, and on Instagram.


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Friday Faves

Apr 17

I’m spending the weekend visiting my niece at UNC Wilmington. I’d like to think I’ll need sunscreen, but weather predictions (rain!) tell me otherwise.

While I’m away, how about some link love, or list love, or, in other words, stuff I’m into right now?

  • Sara launched her new website, Et Voila! recently. Be sure to sign up for her newsletter–trust me, her recipes and pictures of her European adventures are worth it!
  • Kirsten’s new book is out! Knitters, you know she writes elegant, fun-to-stitch patterns, and the book includes exquisite new photographs from our fave photographer, Gale Zucker.
  • smartphone workshopSpeaking of Gale, if you want to learn from her, and if you’re like me and only carry your phone camera most of the time, be sure to check out her Making iPhone Magic classes in NJ May 2 & 3.
  • Can’t make Gale’s classes? Love her work like I do? Grab a set of limited edition Nash Island postcards. I didn’t grab enough at the January pop up shop, so I ordered a full set. Those lambs!
  • Tress by Larissa Brown. I’ll post a review for you soon. In the meantime, if you love fairy tales, magical realism, and vivid writing, put this on your must-read list.
  • Handmade watercolors from Greenleaf and Blueberry. Jess helped me select a basic palette of her handmade paints, and I love using them as I paint birds and interesting things I find on my daily hikes.
  • International Fake Journal Month. I’m participating this year. You can see some of my character’s pages here.
  • Uniball vision fine pen. Humble? I suppose. Here’s why I love this pen. Sometimes I lay paint down first and then sketch over it. Sometimes I sketch (and I prefer sketching in pen to pencil) and then want to put down paint. This pen gives me just the right line, and the ink is waterproof. And it is inexpensive enough that I don’t feel precious about using it in my bullet journal or to grade.

Your turn. What are your Friday Faves?


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Do It Your Way: A Film in Need of Funds

Apr 09

Last year at Fiber College, I stitched under a tent with a group of quilters from Gee’s Bend. You can read about my experience here, and some time I’ll write about how transformative that afternoon was. When I heard about Alice Seeger’s film that emerged from her experience with the special Alabama ladies, Do It Your Way, I couldn’t wait to interview her. I hope you’ll join me in spreading the word about Alice’s Indiegogo campaign and donate what you’re able to it!

Do you remember when you first heard about the Quilters of Gee’s Bend? What drew you to their work?

Although I’ve made a few quilts, they were really nothing serious: gifts for boyfriends, baby shower presents, stuff like that. I don’t consider myself a quilter. I was a weaver anQuiltersd Teaching Artist, founder of Hands On History Inc. presenting arts education in public schools. In 2003 I received a grant from NYFA to work with David Marquis of Marquis Studio in Brooklyn NY as a mentor. I traveled to his office for a meeting, as I was leaving he gave me tickets to the Whitney Museum exhibit The Quilts of Gee’s Bend. It was the last week of the show. I was impressed by the quilts but also interested in the story about the place and the people of Gee’s Bend.

How did your interest in filmmaking develop?
My Dad had a “Super 8” home movie camera. When we were young, my brother and I liked to create little silent films using cards to spell out the dialog. I bought my own digital camcorder just before I went to Arizona in 2001 to do research for an arts residency entitled “Threads of Civilization: Traditional Weaving of the Navajo.” I stayed in a Hogan on the Navajo reservation. The following year my research took me to Peru. I created a films to use in my programs and as documentation for the grants I received.

What were some of the stand-out moments as you filmed last summer?

I was involved in the planning of the Gee’s Bend visit to Fiber College starting in January. I had just moved to Maine and didn’t have anything else to do. Astrig asked me to join the initial meetings between Penobscot Marine Museum, Maine FiberArts and Fiber College. Katharine Cobey was also valuable voice in the process. When the Gee’s Bend quilts arrived in June, it became my task to inventory, photograph and see that the quilts made it to the two exhibits.

When the ladies stepped into the tent on the first morning and began to sing…. the hair stood up on the back of my neck, tears came toLadies my eyes and it became a little hard to breathe! I will never forget it! The forum at the church was pretty amazing, and the reactions of all the students as they finished their quilts from the two-day workshop was a lot of fun to witness!

Tell me a little about what you hope to achieve by traveling to Alabama. What are you most excited about hearing/seeing, etc?
I’m taking donated fabric down to Alabama, I’m looking forward to seeing Miss Revil, Miss China and Miss Stella Mae. I also want to see the places related to the Voting Rights protests that Miss Revil spoke about  and learn more about that story. Quilts are expressions of the lives of the quilters, where they live, what they see, the colors of the sky, the land and the river. I hope to get footage and stories to give a better picture of their lives.

Why is this film important?
Art can bring together people from very different backgrounds to create peace and understanding.

Why are the Gee’s Bend quilters important?
They didn’t wait until they hAlice Seegerad the “right” materials or equipment, training or time to create quilts. They make quilts like most people eat or breath, they just do it. They don’t need anyone’s permission or need to follow rules or recipes.

How does their work impact yours?
They inspire courage.

Anything else you want my readers to know?
If you were at Fiber College and have a story to tell, I’d like to hear it! You could be part of the film. I would also appreciate your support in raising funds and awareness for my Do It Your Way Indiegogo Campaign.

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Defarge Does Shakespeare and Hairpin Lace

Mar 27

Image by Caro Sheridan

Image by Caro Sheridan

Unparallel’d, my contribution to Defarge Does Shakespeare, is an excellent introduction to hairpin lace crochet. I used Habu 1/20 silk stainless steel, beads, and a purple cord–the only color fit for a queen like Cleopatra.

Designing the necklace provided me a lovely trip down memory lane. As I wrote the essay to accompany the pattern, I re-read my MA thesis about Antony and Cleopatra and lingered over lines that captivated me 15 years ago…and still do. I especially love this description of Cleopatra:

Enobarbus: ...For her own person,
It beggar’d all description: she did lie
In her pavilion, cloth-of-gold of tissue,
O’erpicturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did. (Act II, scene 2)

You can download the digital book today and pre-order a print copy. Take a look at the gorgeous array of pattern from the book. Which do you want to make first?

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Sorta Blind Contour Drawing

Feb 23

Last Tuesday Koosje Koene posted her Draw Tip Tuesday video about blind contour selfies.  Yes, I thought. That’s perfect for a postcard or two! I’ve been making portraits of my ancestors, but the faces are so controlled and overworked. I want to loosen my style, and blind contour selfie drawing? Just the ticket!

But when I sat down, Bic pen and pad of postcards in hand, iPhone with selfie on the table, I couldn’t do it. I froze. I wanted to look at that paper. I forced myself to make a few lines without looking, and then I allowed myself to break the rule about not looking. Because this project is not about constriction. It’s about exploration and developing my growth mindset.

And I discovered something. I love making sorta blind contour drawings! I’ve drawn three selfies and one portrait of Neal. These little line drawings have been a blast, and I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to make one, too. Here’s my method:

sorta blind contour drawings1. Grab pen and paper.

2. Take a selfie, get to a mirror, find a picture, find a live model.

3. Without looking at the paper, get down a few lines. You can tell on my postcards where I started, I’ll bet!

4. When you can’t resist looking, look. And draw. Try to keep the “tone” of the blind lines. Be playful.

5. Go back in to add detail if that makes you happy. I added watercolors to one, lines to enhance my hair in another, and cross hatching on Neal’s sweatshirt.

6. Admire your funny little drawing.

Keep me inspired: tell me what you’ve been doing to encourage your growth mindset.

Want a funny little postcard from me? Read about my #2015PostcardProject and sign up here.

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Ethical Elegance: Knit Good Stuff

Feb 19

Joan I don’t know how many years I’ve been eyeing Nanne Kennedy’s toothy, honest, gorgeously dyed yarn at fiber festivals. Last fall, with my best enabler at my side, I stopped petting the yarn and purchased. I have no regrets. Not one.

My original intention was to use this femme pink yarn for a certain sweater I’ve been lusting after (I’m looking at you, Lorna Suzanne). I decided to be as prissy as I want the sweater to be and swatched, swatched, swatched, only to find I couldn’t get a fabric I liked at a gauge I wanted. I think I’m going to need a bit of Starcroft Light to find the just-right match of honest yarn and pattern for my dreamy, prissy sweater.

So what’s a knitter to do when she’s got a bag full of pink wool this good and a hankering for one of Ellen’s sweaters? She copies her pal Kirsten, and uses the Seacolors yarn for a newish arrival at Chez Odacier: Joan Fuller.

Ellen’s pattern writing is terrific. It’s as though she’s sitting next to me on the porch (in my mind, it is summer, always, and on a porch of one sort or another, always), leaning over to remind me what I should do next.

Still, we all know what a pokey knitter I am. Every day, I stitch another few rows before I go to bed, and I confess: it’s hard to sleep when I’ve just had those plump cables in my hand. Even if I don’t finish the sweater to wear this long, long winter, I’ll be ready for a Maine evening in September!

Gale taught me something: match a good, honest yarn by someone you really like with a terrific pattern from a friend you admire, and you’re bound to be happy. And happiness of this sort is exactly what ethical elegance means to me!

How about you? What’s your favorite yarn-pattern match up?

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Silver Locks Project: Styling Silver

Feb 16

I didn’t grow out my silver locks to be on trend, but there I am, at the hair color cutting edge. I say this in jest. The last thing I am is cutting edge.curls front

I’m fascinated by responses to silver hair–that of models and actresses, as well as my own. Among my friends (including most of you, dear readers), I hear admiration for silver locks. C’mon, tell me Emmylou’s hair isn’t amazing. Yet, as I’ve mentioned in other Silver Locks Project posts, I’ve had people question my transition to silver (only a few, and it bothers me not one whit). “Don’t you feel old?” “Why would you do that?” This idea is reasonable. Most silver-locked folks are older. But the reason silver and age are often equated, I suspect, lies elsewhere.

Here’s the thing. As a girl, I knew not one woman who had longer silver hair. For decades, the trend, at least in my world, seemed to be to short, permed hair once the color changed. And a lot of times, those styles looked less like styles, and more like giving up.

My stylist and I figured out some goals when I started the transition to silver:  to keep my hair healthy and to cut as little as necessary. I refused to take the easier route of cutting it all off. I’d spent years growing out my last pixie, and I didn’t want to do that again. I didn’t want to risk resembling the old silver haired ladies I remembered. But cutting to a short bob was necessary.

Now that all the hair is silver, my focus has been on growing it out. I like to braid my hair, and at last I can manage two little pig-tail braids.

Despite my intentions, though, on most days, I’ve been just like the silver-locked women of my youth, taking the easy route as I scramble to hike dogs and leave for work on time. Most days, my styling is limited to running a comb through it and pulling it into a pony tail. Not the height of style. Not cutting edge at all. More like the edge of giving up.

This week I came back from the edge, at least a wee bit. My stylist coiffed me for a fancy gala evening on Friday. I asked for beehive height. She persuaded me to curls and a side sweep, a style that looked elegant and fun. And she assured me that I could learn to curl my hair in a snap.

I realized it isn’t so much about the style of my silver. There are loads of women rocking silver pixies. This entire musing over edges and giving up is a reminder to myself to stay curious, to keep playing.

Guess what I picked up today? Curlers.

Tell me: what do you do to keep yourself from giving up?

Thinking of going all cutting edge and silver yourself? Check out my Silver Locks Project posts.

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